How to Effectively Use Law School

  • 19 January, 2024
  • 27 MB

On the latest episode of the Justice Team Podcast, Bob Simon sits down with trial lawyer Gabe Araj for an insightful discussion on navigating law school and stepping into the legal field. Gabe imparts valuable advice for law students, focusing on proactive measures to acquire hands-on experience and the significance of networking and engaging with legal communities. This discussion is a prime example of how confidence and seizing early courtroom experiences can set the foundation for a successful legal career.

Gabe Araj, Simon Law Group


Bob Simon (00:07):
Welcome to this episode of the Justice Team Podcast on the Justice Team Network. And today we’re going to talk about how to effectively use law school and how to transition in some do’s and don’ts, and we have Mr. Gabe Araj. Gabe, welcome.

Gabe Araj (00:21):
Thank you for having me.

Bob Simon (00:22):
Gabe is a trial lawyer with our firm. And unlike many others, Gabe was actually able to get real trial experience and real lawyer experience pretty much right out of law school. And I’ve had the benefit of doing his first closing argument with you, right?

Gabe Araj (00:37):
Yeah. That was a couple years ago now. Scary experience, but definitely one that went well. And I’m happy it went to plan.

Bob Simon (00:47):
Yeah, I mean, I think every lawyer out of law school should be able to try a case and get seven figures like Gabe Araj, but we shall digress. Gabe, where did you go to law school?

Gabe Araj (00:53):
I went to the lovely Loyola Law School here in Los Angeles.

Bob Simon (00:58):
And so tell us, what are some tips that you have? Because you were able to get real exposure right out of law school. We were able to meet through mutual friends. Tell us, how were you able to leverage your way into something that you wanted to do, and some tips for law students?

Gabe Araj (01:12):
Yeah, of course. I mean, I think it really starts while you’re in law school. And we always hear the cliche, law school teaches you how to think like a lawyer, but they don’t teach you how to practice. To an extent, I think that’s true, but I think there are a lot of ways that law students can be proactive and put themselves in positions where they’re getting opportunities to practice and learn how to practice while they’re in law school.

And so for example, the way I got into the Simon Law Group was just working some connections. Shout out, Dave Reiner. Made the hookup to the Simon brothers. And just getting into a good trial firm while you’re in law school, get that exposure, I mean, that’s incredibly important.

Bob Simon (01:58):
Yeah. I always have the same advice, is do something more practical rather than cerebral in law school. Build your network, be able to do it. So first time I met you was actually, I was speaking at Loyola. And you were either putting it together or you were on the board, but I remember we were talking right thereafter.

Gabe Araj (02:14):
Yeah. I was on the board for consumer law society at Loyola. Reached out to Bob a couple times, wanted to get him in as a speaker. And it just started from there. And then once I was at the firm, I mean, there’s so many things you can do as a law student that law students may not even know of. Such as, if you go to law school in California, they’re really trying to promote law students being ready to practice as soon as they pass the bar.

And while you’re in law school, people don’t know this, you can take depositions, you can try cases, you can represent clients in hearings, you can represent government entities if you want to go the criminal law route. And you can do all that stuff while you’re in law school. So I mean, I can go through. I actually just printed-

Bob Simon (02:59):
Yeah, because I think just for our listeners and viewers, you can actually do these things. A lot of people don’t know. But can you walk them through what they have to do while they’re in law school, practical advice to get this process started?

Gabe Araj (03:10):
Of course. So this is available to law students who have completed their first year. It makes sense. You want to focus fully on school your first year. Those are the core classes that you’re going to be tested on in the bar. So it makes sense. You’re going to be busy.

But California has a program where you can become a certified law student after your first year. And all you need to do is fill out a very simple application on the state bar website. You also need to get a sign off from your dean. If you just go to your student affairs office, they’ll handle it for you and they’ll get that back to you with the dean’s signature.

And then you also need a supervising attorney to sign off on it. So when I became a certified law clerk, Bob was my supervising attorney. That doesn’t necessarily mean Bob needs to be in every single deposition that I’m taking. It just means that someone at the firm, a supervising attorney, needs to be present. And now in the world of Zoom depositions, it’s easy.

Bob Simon (04:07):
So you just have a login while you’re there listening. And you can actually now have AI record it and summarize it for the managing partner to tell you how Gabe fucked up. But no, you were crushing it, even in law school.

Gabe Araj (04:21):
Well, you bring up a good point there. I still remember this, I don’t know if you’ll remember it. I’m sitting in an office in Hermosa Beach. I had just became a certified law clerk. Bob comes in and goes, “Hey, I got this deposition next week. We don’t have coverage for it. Gabe, you’re taking it. Screw it up as much as you want. I just want you to get the experience.”

And so that’s really important. Not only that you become a certified law clerk, but that you work at a firm and work with people who are willing to give you those opportunities, that are willing to let you screw up. Now, looking back now, I’m sure that witness, it wasn’t the most important witness. But to me at the time, it was the most important witness. And I prepared like crazy for it and I took the deposition. I was scared as hell, but…

Bob Simon (05:03):
And now the easiest thing to do is we sit on chat rooms and things like that. So Gabe’s taking a deposition, or any young lawyer or law clerk, we can either watch virtually or stream it. But you can take a break, step out, ask questions, make sure you’re in the right direction.

But for a lot of other law firm owners out there, give people a chance. If you don’t give people a chance, they’ll never be able to grow and you’ll be stuck doing everything, which is the worst. So you have to be done with your first year. Dean signs off, supervising lawyer. How about trying cases? Still can do it.

Gabe Araj (05:40):
Absolutely. So I actually just printed out… It’s Rule 9.42 in California. It talks about what certified law students can do. And really it’s everything, so long as you’re being supervised at the time. So appear on behalf of clients and depositions, you can negotiate on behalf of clients, you can appear on behalf of the client in any public trial, hearing, arbitration, proceeding. Before any arbitrator, any court, any agency. I mean, it’s a wide breadth of things that you can do. You’re essentially being a lawyer, practicing law under the supervision of a supervising attorney.

And I mean, these experiences, these opportunities, I mean, you’re going to hit the ground running once you pass that bar and you’re going to feel comfortable on the record. Because as every young lawyer and every lawyer knows, those first, I’d say, 20 depositions, you read those transcripts, man, I’m saying and before every question-

Bob Simon (06:35):
I still do it: ums, hmms. What about, as I did, legal aid clinics? Also good exposure for law students to get involved. Because the other part of these is you can learn how to practice and do things, but you have to learn how to have interaction with human beings.

Gabe Araj (06:52):
Absolutely. So look, in law school, you’re going to be promoted a lot of different things. Law schools love promoting-

Bob Simon (07:01):
Law review.

Gabe Araj (07:02):
I can’t even think of it. Law review. I didn’t do law review. But yeah, they promote law review a lot. They promote their mock trial team.

Bob Simon (07:07):
Unless you want to go clerk for the Supreme Court or you want to go in appellate law, I’d say law review is not for you. Sorry to say that, law schools.

Gabe Araj (07:14):
And look, those things are great. Most schools have trial teams and mock trial teams. Those are great. But a lot of times those are gearing you to be ready for some sort of competition with fake facts and a faked case. Like Bob said, legal aid groups, solos, smaller firms, plaintiff’s firms that need the help, I mean, those are great opportunities to start working with real clients on real cases.

Bob Simon (07:41):
And that’s what people, if you go to a bigger firm, even on our side, the trial lawyer side, it gets you less exposure when you’re there, even for your law clerk, summer or whatever. It’s just using systems and learning how they operate as a firm.

If you go to the smaller firms, it’s literally like working for a startup in a tech company. You’re going to be wearing every hat and there’ll be a lot more thrown onto you as a law clerk.

Gabe Araj (08:07):
Exactly. I mean, even in the JHQ network, there are so many solos who I am sure if a law student reached out to them, said, “Hey, I’m a certified law clerk. I’m looking to get into a courtroom, into a deposition,” there are plenty of solo practitioners and smaller firms out there looking for that kind of help.

People want to give back, especially on the plaintiff’s bar, I mean, there’s a lot of attorneys. And Bob, you do a great job of this. You want young attorneys in the courtroom and you want them to get that experience. And overall, consumers as a whole benefit from that. The more attorneys who can get into the courtroom and try cases, it’s better off for everyone.

Bob Simon (08:55):
So advice to law students today, how are they going to open that door? You knew another lawyer that knew us and you wanted to be able to work for a firm to be able to grow. But what about those law students that may not know that other lawyer? What should they be doing to be able to get their foot in the door today?

Gabe Araj (09:13):
That’s a great question. At Loyola, we have the Consumer Law Society. Pretty much every law school I’m aware of, they have some form of consumer advocacy group, consumer law society, plaintiff’s bar society, whatever it is. So you can get involved with that. Start going to watch speakers and start to get to know some of the attorneys who are out trying cases and representing consumers.

And a lot of times those attorneys are looking for help, especially if you’re a law student and you’re willing to work either as an extern, intern, or maybe a lot of times these positions can be paid as well. But it’s just getting your foot in the door, networking, reaching out. If you’re hungry and you show that, and you show that you’re proactive and you follow up and you do those sorts of things, then someone’s going to give you a chance

Bob Simon (10:08):
And you can literally slide into someone’s DMs. There’s the consumer law group at Loyola, which opened a lot of doors, because you can have speakers come in; that opens the door. But there’s a lot of bar organizations that you can join for free or have discounts. Go to events, man. Just get out there and network when you’re not in school.

Gabe Araj (10:25):
CAALA is free for law students, and a lot of other organizations, it’s free to sign up as a law student. They want law students at their events. They want law students going to CAALA and to conventions and getting to know the people that they’re about to work with. It’s accessible. It’s right there.

Bob Simon (10:43):
And when he says CAALA, it’s It’s the Consumer Attorneys of Los Angeles Association. Search whatever geographic region you’re in. I talked to a law student yesterday and she’s in Chicago area, and I helped her find the local bar for consumer attorneys.

And yeah, again, it was free. You could go in there. They’ll let you attend events. There’s a mentorship program that a lot of these things… A gateway to be able to access the lawyers that you want to work for. But it’s easier than ever because you can literally slide into someone’s DMs on social or LinkedIn today. It was even different probably five years ago. But that’s the world we live in.

Gabe Araj (11:21):
Yeah. And the biggest piece of advice, and I guess just mantra to remember is you’re ready. Even as a law student, you are ready to take depositions. You’re ready to try cases. I don’t care what anyone says. We all hear about the big law route and I have friends who work big law. And it’s kind of like, pay your time. You’ll hit your first deposition in year three. You’ll get in your first trial, year 10, whatever it is.

That’s a big law hierarchal thing. And there are so many smaller firms and consumer attorneys who don’t agree with that. And they get their law students and recent law school grads into trials as soon as they’re ready. And you’re ready right now. Don’t be scared. You will be nervous, but you’ll have support.

Bob Simon (12:06):
You’re always going to be that way. Just find the support, be around it. I mean, no one’s going to throw you into a murder trial. But you have that opportunity, and if you’re too scared to fail, you never succeed.

Gabe Araj (12:16):
Exactly. Exactly. And look, you’ll go up there. And for me, I gave a closing within months of being barred. And yeah, I was scared, but guess what? You go up there and you feel that feeling and you do well and you see the jury resonating with you. And there’s no better feeling. That feeling of being up and arguing in front of a jury, it’s one of those feelings where if you could bottle it up and sell it, you’d be a billionaire.

Bob Simon (12:41):
And before we did that, I had Gabe do his entire outline of what he was going to say, bullet point it, put it into the PowerPoint and worked with him. And I think if you have somebody like that that you can find as a mentor, because that’ll help you do every structure, every one of your closings. If you do the nitty-gritty the first time, it’s just like plug and play after that.

Gabe Araj (12:57):
Yeah, exactly. And you’re going to be leaps and bounds ahead of anyone else in your law school class who goes another route and they kind of pay their time. And by the time you’re a second, third year attorney, you’re going to be comfortable on the record. You’re going to be comfortable in the courtroom. And that’s going to make you marketable. It’s going to give you so many more opportunities throughout your career.

Bob Simon (13:19):
Love it. All right, Gabe, well, thanks for coming on. We look forward to the slew of trials you have coming up because I’ve seen your calendar. Congrats on… By the time this airs, you will have been wed unless she jilted you. But it’s next week by the time we’re recording is when he’s going to get hitched. Gabe, thanks for coming on. I appreciate you.

Gabe Araj (13:35):
Thank you so much. Last I heard she’s going to say yes, so fingers crossed.

Bob Simon (13:38):
Maybe, maybe, maybe. Maybe she says yes, we hope. Well, if you have any questions, go to You can have a case evaluation there or check any of our shows out. So thank you for listening to this edition of the Justice Team Podcast. Thanks, Gabe.

Gabe Araj (13:52):
Thank you, Bob.

Scroll to top